Total trade deficit in goods and services widened by £5.7 billion to £10.5 billion between Q4 2016 and Q1 2017, according to the Office for National Statistics.
Increased imports of commodities, such as mechanical machinery, cars, oil and chemicals were the main sources of the deficit expanding in the first quarter.
- total UK trade deficit widened by £2.3 billion to £4.9 billion between February and March 2017 – accounting for almost half the quarterly deficit in Q1
- total imports increased by £2.9 billion, with an increase in imports of goods from both EU and non-EU countries.
Allie Renison, head of EU and trade policy at the Institute of Directors, said:
“While there has been some pickup in exports since the [Brexit] referendum, the impact on the trade balance has been limited as imports have continued to outpace this increase. We should be cautious about overestimating the impact of sterling on exports in the short term.”
Suren Thiru, head of economics at the British Chambers of Commerce, added:
“As the UK moves through the Brexit process and beyond, it is vital more is done to provide greater practical assistance for exporters, including developing an expanded trade mission and fairs programme and funding front-line, face-to-face support for exporters to help get UK businesses trading with the world.”